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Old 07-09-2015   #1
bwest's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 120
Alaska Boating Towns

Thinking of spending a summer in AK, wondering if there is a good place to base yourself for fun boating and good Alaska experience. I've heard Six Mile is fun but other than big rivers like the Alsek, Tatenshini, Susitna, Stikine, etc I dont know the slightest about boating in the biggest and probably most epic state in our wonderful country. Any advice or recommendations on where to base for a summer of boating (good creeking and mellow fun trips) and adventuring in the bush?

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Old 07-09-2015   #2
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 384
Tim Johnson wrote a great guide book for the runs surrounding Anchorage. Six Mile is definitely a sweet run in that area and there are a number of good runs within an hour of Anchorage/Palmer to keep you busy, not to mention other boaters, music, food, beers, etc. AK is sweet, but as goes for towns, most will be small & access into the bush to run rivers gets complicated/ expensive quickly. I spent a few summers in Valdez and had good fun on the local class 3 runs and access to rivers around McCarthy was "easy," not to mention paddling Prince William Sound. Don't overlook sea kayaking while you're there, it is mind blowing...

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Old 07-09-2015   #3
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 45
I'd definitely recommend getting a copy of Fast & Cold, possibly the greatest guide book ever written - short on details, long on epic adventure stories. Girdwood or Hope are good towns to base out of for Six Mile. Plus there are other good options on the Kenai and you're not too far from the Glenn Highway and access to the Matanuska and some other good floats on the Chitna and Copper. Palmer could be another option that puts you closer to that stuff, but further from Six Mile. Enjoy!
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Old 07-09-2015   #4
Salida, Colorado, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 91

I have been up there and can give you some beta. I also have the books for AK.

It was hard 7 years ago to get a copy of fast and cold. Get in touch sometime if you want to chat.


p.s. Ingram Creek is DOPE!
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Old 07-09-2015   #5
over the horizon
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Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 267
I guided out of Cooper Landing one summer. That was a cool little river town, good location in the center of the peninsula. The Kenai isn't that spectacular for rapids, but the valley and lake are pretty and there is guide work.
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Old 07-10-2015   #6
Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 70
AK Boating

"Alsek, Tatenshini, Susitna, Stikine" - All wilderness runs with no base

McCarthy is a cool summer town with a river class II+ in town and a class III/IV creek but usually the water is low and is more suitable for packrafts. Lots of other stouts and rarely run rivers in that area but it costs $$$ unless your hiking in.

Six Mile is the reliable standard for class IV from Anchorage you would be close to it from either Anchorage, Girdwood or Cooper Landing.

Mckinley Village has the Nenana which is a decent III/IV big water run. With the exception of a few tributaries your gonna want to drive elsewhere for most of your boating.

Anchorage is in a great location for the stuff on the Kenai, or the stuff in the valley. There are probably hundreds of rivers to access with a 6 hour drive, but you gotta get out of the city. You can climb up 5000 feet basically within city limits but you can't legally boat anything worthwhile.
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Old 07-10-2015   #7
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 103

+1 on McKinley/Denali area. as vtpackraft said, the Nenana is a great river, that is class III to IV in the canyon, but has great stretches of I, II and III wilderness type stretches upstream. Line/float the Brushkana to get to the upper upper. The Jack River nearby is also a fun I/II stretch. We canoed with beavers swimming underwater on the Brushkana, and had a griz walk into the upper Nenana and attempt to swim across as we paddled 50' from him.

Lots of night life and surprisingly good music in the Denali (aka Glitter Gulch) area. Good food, people and OK seasonal job opportunities too. Should be able to find boater buddies easily too.

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